Modi on China border clash: India can give befitting reply


India wants peace but is capable of giving a befitting reply every time its territorial integrity is threatened, prime minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday, a day after the Indian Army said 20 of its men including a commanding officer had been killed fighting the Chinese army in eastern Ladakh.

Modi was addressing chief ministers of the states over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the prime minister’s first statement after the bloodbath at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh through Monday night.

“Every inch of the country, its sovereignty, will be defended. India, culturally, is a peace-loving country,” Modi said. “Our history has been of peace…. We have always prayed for the good of humanity. We have always worked with our neighbours in a cooperative, friendly way. We have always wished for their development and well-being. Wherever there have been differences, we have always tried to see to it that differences don’t become disputes.

“We never instigate anyone. But we also do not compromise on our sovereignty. Whenever it was needed to defend our sovereignty our territorial integrity, we have shown and proven our strength,” he said.

“I would like to assure the nation that the sacrifice of our jawans will not go in vain. For us, the unity and sovereignty of the country are of utmost importance. Nobody should have any illusions or doubts — India wants peace, but when instigated, India is capable of giving a befitting reply at every instance.”

He added: “And of our brave, martyred jawans, the country will be proud to know, woh marte marte marein hain [they went down fighting].”

There has been no confirmation from China on deaths or injuries in the People’s Liberation Army, but Indian and international media have reported “casualties on both sides,” citing unnamed sources.

India and China have both accused each other of instigating the fight, reportedly with cubs and stones, on the high-altitude terrain.

The two countries share a 2,520-mile border, most of which is contested by both sides. Chinese army “intrusions” into Indian territory are common, as are scuffles between the two armies that have decided not to use firearms in order to prevent escalation of skirmishes.

However, these are the first casualties faced by the Indian Army in a clash with the PLA since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh. The death toll is the highest in any India-China clash since 1967.

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